The Orchid Ark
Thailand has over 1100 native orchid species. There are many national parks, but in these national parks there is illegal deforestation, illegal man-made fires and theft of orchids to supply the domestic and international orchid trade. In neighbouring countries (Laos and Burma) the deforestation is legal, and every seven minutes a truckload of timber crosses the border to China. Therefore are almost all Thai, Burmese and Lao orchids endangered!
A group of orchid lovers, academic professionals and environmentalists have concluded that the orchids are not safe in the Thai national parks. Therefore we need to 1) find alternative ways to preserve the orchids until the national parks are safe and 2) continuously educate society about orchids and the importance of functioning national parks.
We currently initiate orchid arks, i.e. a network of fenced and controlled private areas where indigenous orchids can be grown and propagated by seeds to maintain genetic variation. Such an area should not just be a nursery, but a woodland with orchids and many plant species to stimulate presence of natural pollinators and fungal symbionts, preventing degeneration in germination, morphology and fragrance by natural selection. A parallel collection of mericlones derived from several individuals should be created too, since these were at least fit for one documented environmental situation, while the fitness of the seedlings is unknown.
The orchid arks would last until the threats in the national parks are gone, after which an orchid ark's collection would be transferred back to the forests again. We shall of course keep the original mother stock as a back-up and as a source of new seedlings for many years of outplanting efforts.
Such a restoration program demands thorough knowledge about each species' preferences (latitide range, altitude range, substrate specifics, orientation on the substrate, climate, wind and sun exposure, surrounding flora, pollinators' substrate etc). The outplanting will be made in close collaboration with botanists and other field experts and national park staff. The time for outplanting might be two decades from now, or whenever we deem the threats are gone. Western governmental projects are usually 2-6 years, so this initiative demands private funding, chiefly from the Seehamongkol family.
If the Orchid Ark terminates before the outplanting begins, its orchid collection will be shared with other botanical gardens.
The Chiang Mai Orchid Ark
This first Orchid Ark in Thailand was founded on April 3, 2011. It is a non-profit organization and an invited member of the Orchid Conservation Coalition. This organization supports orchid conservation worldwide by asking companies to donate 1% of their profits.
The Orchid Ark's collection of 196 orchid species is hosted by Dokmai Garden, the biggest benefactor. Dokmai Garden provides a 24 rai (4 ha, 10 acres) fenced area with over 1000 vascular plant species in Chiang Mai (northern Thailand). Dokmai Garden offers a small building which can be developed into an orchid seed germination laboratory and it has a senior biologist with a vast contact net involving national parks, university botanists, botanical gardens and amateur orchid lovers. Dokmai Garden is also an invited participant of SEABG (Southeast Asian Botanical Gardens Network).
You can help the orchids!
Submit this link to friends, blogs and media.
Do not buy orchids from roadside vendors or import from e-bay.
Make sure the vendor has a CITES license, or buy laboratory orchids in bottles. We recommend you buy orchids from Lanta Orchid Nursery and Orchidgarden Khaolak and Phuphaman Orchids which are seriously interested in orchid education and conservation.
Report forest fires immediately.
If you write in Thai or Chinese, blog about the threats to orchids and about biodiversity decline in general.
Support the Chiang Mai orchid ark:
1. Donate Thai orchid species (no hybrids) or orchid fruits from your garden.
2. Donate orchid books.
3. Become an Orchid Ark scout: monitor your area and deliver information about orchid habitats and pollinators. If you wish to keep your orchid sites secret from everyone (including us) we do respect that, but you need to show us pictures to prove your statements about habitat preferences. We have scouts in Chiang Rai, Chiang Dao and Chiang Mai.
Dokmai Garden, Chiang Mai.
Kaarina and Börje Danell, Sweden.
Corien and Folbert Bronsema, the Netherlands.
Ricky Ward, Chiang Mai.
Hendrik Jacobs, Chiang Rai.
Lanta Orchid Nursery and Orchidgarden Khaolak.
Bill Hunter, Species-specific, Ireland.
Dr Margaret M. From, Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo, U.S.A.
20th World Orchid Congress in Singapore 2011.
Bruce Hugman, Chaing Rai.
The Peake family, Chiang Mai.
June Freeman, U.S.A.
White Lotus Publishing Company, Pattaya.
Phuphaman Orchids Ltd.
Rick Lockwood, Orchid Society of Middle Tennessee & Active member of Slipper Talk.
The Griffioen family, the Netherlands.
Ken Banks, Hawaii.
David Fielder, Edmonton, Canada.
Wonsom and Regina,Chicago, USA.
Mr and Mrs Jantakananurak, Thailand
Ms Dolkanok Srijantuek, Thailand.
Abby Hird and Evan Meyer, Boston, USA.
Giulietta Bresadola, Switzerland.
Barry Natusch, Japan andNew Zealand.
Allen and Jennette Todd, Oregon.
Kind help and support have also been provided by:
Dr Suyanee Vessabutr, Director of the Queen Sirikit Botanical Garden, Chiang Mai.
Dr Piyakaset, the Queen Sirikit Botanical Garden, Chiang Mai.
Dr Santi Watthana,the Queen Sirikit Botanical Garden, Chiang Mai.
Mr James Maxwell, Curator of the Chiang Mai University herbarium.
Mrs Som, CITES, Bangkok.
Mr Somkiat, Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, Bangkok.
Mr Pajon Sitikan, Forest Resource Management Bureau Number 1, Chiang Mai.
MSc Nantiya Vaddhanaphuti, author of the book 'Wild Orchids of Thailand', Chiang Mai.
Dr Nura Abdul Karim, Singapore Botanic Gardens.
Dr John Elliott, 20th World Orchid Congress in Singapore.
Dr Hubert Franz Kurzweil, Singaporean National Parks Board.
Mr Ong Poh Teck, Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM).
Professor Leonid Vladimirovich Averyanov, Komarov Botanical Institute, St Petersburg, Russia.
Dr Alec Pridgeon, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, England.
Dr James Wearn, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, England.
Associate Professor Henrik Aerenlund Pedersen, Chairman of the Danish Botanical Society.
Dr Samuel Sprunger, The Swiss Orchid Foundation, Basel, Switzerland.
Mr Dan Christen, The Swiss Orchid Foundation, Basel, Switzerland.
Professor Michael Pascoe, Fanshawe College, Canada.
Dr Karel Petrzelka, Prague Botanical Garden.
Mark Sullivan, 1% for Orchid Conservation.
Mr Jay Pfahl, Internet Orchid Species Photo Encyclopedia.
The Cymbidium Orchid Club of South Australia.
MSc Tyrone Genade, South Africa.
Mr Pavlos Georgiadis, ethnobotanist, Greece.
Mr Matthew Gore, Gore Orchid Conservatory, USA.
Mr Paul Herd, Wellington Orchid Society, New Zealand.
Mr Kurt Keller, Chiang Dao.
Mr Ari Matikka, The Finnish Orchid Society.
Miss Anja Rohde, Germany.
Mr Trey Sanders, Dendrochilum expert, Bristol, England.
Mr Simon Sandison, Tresco, England.
Mr Jussi Suominen, Turku, Finland.
Ms Debbie Thomas, justtropicals.com, Cheltenham, England.
Mrs Anne Thompson, England.
Mr Gab van Winkel, Editor of the journal Orchideeën.
Mr Hans Vastenhoud, Chairman of Netherland's Orchid Society.
Mr Peter Williams, Chiang Dao.
Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne, Australia.
The Sidney Botanical Garden.
The New Brunswick Botanical Garden, Canada.
Share your thoughts and ideas at our forum
'The Last Days of the Orchids'.
A preliminary list of species of the Orchid Ark.
Short film (16:51) on Endangered Orchids with photographs and some scenes from Dokmai Garden.April 2013.
TV star family encroaches 62 hectares of forest reserve and wildlife sanctuary with the help of corrupt civil servants. February 25, 2012.
New national parks chief says Thai deforestation goes rampant, September 25, 2011.
A Bangkok Post article on national park encroachers. July 27, 2011.
Invasion of the Orchid snatchers, a BBC feature from May 19, 2011.
Orchids as a way to cure plant blindness. A diploma thesis in horticulture by Craig Williams, Kew Gardens. (pdf 2.24 MB).
Ketsanee Seehamongkol, BA, President of Dokmai Garden.
Eric Danell, Associate Prof., senior scientist at Dokmai Garden.
Dokmai Garden, 386 Moo 10, Namprae, Hang Dong, Chiang Mai 50230, THAILAND. Phone +66(0)8-13866244. E-mail: info at dokmaigarden.co.th
How to get here.